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W.R. Berkley (WRB) Board Approves Special Cash Dividend

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The board of directors of W.R. Berkley Corporation (WRB - Free Report) approved a special cash dividend of $1.00 per share. Shareholders of record as of Dec 7 will receive the special dividend on Dec 22.

This latest approval marks the second special dividend approved by the board so far this year. In June 2021, W.R. Berkley approved a special dividend of 50 cents.

Together with the 50 cents per share special dividend paid on Jul 6, 2021, special dividends paid in 2021 so far total $1.50 per share.

Concurrently, the board of directors of W.R. Berkley approved a quarterly dividend of 13 cents per share, to be paid out on Dec 22 to its shareholders of record at the close of business on Dec 7. The company’s current dividend yield is 0.6%, noticeably better than the industry average of 0.3%.

The insurer has paid cash dividends without interruption since 1976. Backed by its operating strength, the property and casualty insurer has a solid track record of increasing dividend for 16 straight years.

Total capital returned to shareholders in 2021 so far is approximately $478 million, which includes all special and ordinary dividends declared to date in 2021 and all shares repurchased through Sep, 30, 2021.

Besides the special cash dividend and regular dividend hike, W.R. Berkley remains committed to returning excess cash to shareholders through share repurchases. The board has increased share repurchase authorization back to its earlier level of 10 million shares. The repurchase authorization represents around 6% of shares outstanding as of Sep 30, 2021.

W.R. Berkley has a solid balance sheet with sufficient liquidity and robust cash flows that support growth initiatives and effective capital deployment. The company had more than $2 billion in cash and cash equivalents at the end of third-quarter 2021. Moreover, cash flow from operations increased 34.1% year over year in the first nine months of 2021.

Being one of the largest commercial lines writers in the United States, it has been enhancing investors’ value through prudent capital deployment in the form of share buybacks and dividend hikes. Such initiatives not only reflect the operational and financial strength of the company but also make the stock attractive to yield-seeking investors. Return on equity (ROE), a profitability measure of how efficiently a company utilizes its shareholders' money, was 12.9% in the third quarter, which compared favorably with the prior-year quarter’s ROE of 6.8%.

Shares of W.R. Berkley have gained 21.3% year to date, outperforming the industry’s increase of 20.9%. Steady net premium growth, improving combined ratio owing to additional rate and effective management of volatility and expenses and focus on underwriting profitability as well as on areas of the business that offer better margins should help the stock grow further.

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The stock carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Backed by their sturdy capital position and operational strength, three other insurers have engaged in enhancing shareholders’ value. American Financial Group’s (AFG - Free Report) board of directors approved a special cash dividend of $4.00 per share. Old Republic International’s (ORI - Free Report) board of directors approved a special, one-time cash dividend of $1.50 per share. MGIC Investment’s (MTG - Free Report) board of directors authorized a new share repurchase program under which it may repurchase up to $500 million of its shares through the end of 2023.